Abe shares his Thai food with his students

December 10, 2018 — by Jun Lee and Michael Wong

Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Influenced by both Western and Eastern cuisines and cultures, the dishes have strong flavor and spicy kick.

Thai food is also big favorite of history teacher Kirk Abe, who has developed a passion for creating carefully refined Thai dishes.

To the delight of his colleagues and students, he has brought these dishes to campus to share occasionally.

“Mr. Abe seems to like Thai food,” said senior Carolyn Ma, a student from his AP class. “He brought food to class twice, where he made this sour soup and a Thai red chicken curry. I thought his food tasted good.”

Abe’s interest in Thai cuisine took off during a trip to Hawaii about 25 years ago, culminating in an effort to acquire recipes for his favorite dishes last summer.

“The first time I had Thai food, I was hooked,” Abe said. “I had some dishes there that I couldn’t believe existed — they’re so delicious — and for many years I wanted to learn how to do it, I just never had an opportunity to learn.”

Abe finally set aside some time to cook, learning from various YouTube videos over the summer break.

He started by attempting the Tom Yum Gai soup, a Thai sweet-and-sour chicken specialty that blends different spices to create a vibrance of flavors. Abe’s recipe, which he developed over much trial-and-error, includes lemongrass, chili base, Kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms and plenty of cilantro, he says, to enhance its spiciness.

“I like really spicy foods — like extremely spicy,” Abe said. “So when I serve my Thai food to my family or students, they usually say it’s too hot for them to eat.”

Another favorite Abe wanted to learn is Panang curry, a thick, salty and sweet, red chicken curry.

His daughter, junior Ashleigh Abe, has seen her dad’s food improve.

“At first it didn’t taste that similar, but he tried to refine his recipes to make them taste similar to restaurants. I don’t think it’s 100 percent a match, but it became pretty close.”

After gaining familiarity with the cuisine, Abe, who is Japanese-American, even created a  combination of Thai and Japanese food, with the traditional Panang curry and inari sushi, a rice-stuffed deep-fried tofu pocket, in a dish he aptly calls “Thainari.”

“I thought adding the curry into inari sushi would better the taste and add flavor,” he said.

With his two favorite dishes under his belt, Abe says that he is satisfied with his Thai knowledge for now.

“It’s not an easy job to make food,” Abe said. “It feels good to make my favorite food, serve it to my family, and see them enjoying it.”

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